Missing Decisions and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Merritt McAlister’s Missing Decisions is an important contribution to our understanding of civil procedure, judicial decisionmaking, and the law itself. McAlister’s study demonstrates that many merits terminations by federal appellate courts aren’t readily accessible to the public, nor do they show up in major legal research databases like Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg.

Two of the limitations of Missing Decisions are that it relies on summary statistical tables to quantify the portion of merits terminations that are “missing,” and that it doesn’t include the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit because its statistical tables are in a different format than those of other circuits. Yet, the Federal Circuit is a prime candidate for understanding the issue of “missing decisions.” It is a court that has employed summary decisionmaking to a great extent, even as it is perhaps the most scrutinized court aside from the Supreme Court.

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